Better Access to Better Foods = Better Health
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s Health Innovations Program connects its emergency feeding network and consumers served by these programs with members of the medical community in an effort to promote health, wellness, and nutrition education.
“They helped me change my eating habits because I was on the verge of a heart attack. By me coming here, it was really a blessing…I didn’t grow up knowing anything about nutrition.”
Michael Carr, client
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has been working to connect our food distribution partners with healthcare providers throughout our 27-county service area. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and mandates for community assessments and outreach, hospital systems have looked to nationwide food banks like ours to provide help to consumers served by our programs.
Our projects vary from literature distribution to health screenings, emergency prepacked boxes in pediatric clinics to a full-blown Fresh Food Farmacy™, our partnership with Geisinger Health System, that targets low-income diabetes patients. Healthcare providers recognize the connection between poor nutrition and poor health, so this educational outreach initiative, in concert with nutrition education, is a big step in the right direction.
Our goals are simple.
- Encourage providers to implement food insecurity screening as part of their routine patient assessments, followed by referrals to our local food pantry partners, meal programs, or federal nutrition programs such as SNAP (food stamps), WIC, or Summer Feeding Program.
- If a system has the capacity to do so, integrate students, nurses and doctors, into outreach activities directly at the food program level, i.e. “meet the individuals where they are”. Individuals who need food will show up at distribution sites as often as they are permitted to do so, more frequently perhaps than keeping an appointment at a doctor’s office or a clinic. Repeated interaction with healthcare providers at distribution sites has not only fostered trust, but also positive results.
Our current health care partners include:
- Aetna Insurance
- American Heart Association
- Capital Blue Cross
- Evangelical Hospital
- Gateway Insurance
- Geisinger Health
- Hamilton Health
- Highmark Blue Shield
- Lancaster General/Penn Medicine
- Penn State Health
- Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers
- Pennsylvania Department of Health
- Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute
- UPMC/Pinnacle Health
- WellSpan Health